Feds investigating Arlington Heights High School

FORT WORTH -- The U.S. Education Department has launched an investigation into allegations that minority students were discriminated against at Arlington Heights High School, federal officials confirmed Monday.

Specifically, the department's Office of Civil Rights will investigate whether school officials discriminated against African-American and Hispanic students in disciplinary action and in opportunities to make up absences, agency spokesman Jim Bradshaw said.

"Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the case," Bradshaw said.

Clint Bond, spokesman for the Fort Worth school district, said local officials have not been asked for information concerning the investigation.

"Fort Worth ISD does not tolerate racism in any form," Bond said.

In November, the Texas Education Agency closed its review of the same allegations without action. The state agency determined that the district thoroughly investigated the matter and provided "appropriate oversight to ensure that the rights of all students are protected," according to a TEA letter provided by the district.

Allegations of wrongdoing surfaced at the school this summer. The district's own investigation found that students were allowed to clean and do other work at the school for class credit, that attendance records were altered, that thefts went unreported and that minority students were disproportionately disciplined.

Former Arlington Heights Principal Neta Alexander and Assistant Superintendent Chuck Boyd resigned as a result of the investigation; Joseph Palazzolo, a former assistant principal, was fired. He has since filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, saying he was fired for alerting officials to the wrongdoings.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum filed the state and federal complaints against the district, alleging that minority students are punished more harshly than Anglos and don't get the same opportunities to make up grades or absences.

"There are two standards in the Fort Worth ISD," he said.

Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700